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Full text of "A history of Persia"

LIT                 PERSIAN LITERATURE               135
was written by Firdausi, whereupon the Sultan confessed
his deep regret that he had disappointed the poet and
promised that he would send him something. Accordingly,
upon the arrival of Mahmud at Ghazna, sixty thousand
dinars' worth of indigo was despatched to Tabaran on the
royal camels, with the monarch's apologies. But, as the
train of camels bearing the royal bounty entered Tabaran
by the Rudbar Gate, the corpse of Firdausi was borne forth
from the Rizan Gate. The daughter of the poet refused
the tardy gift, and, as Jami wrote five centuries later :
Gone is the greatness of Mahmud, departed his glory,
And shrunk to " He knew not the worth of Firdausi" his story.
I have quoted from the Shahnama more than once,
but the great epic entirely loses its sonorous majesty in
a translation. It contains all the legends as well as all
the history of Persia known to-its author, who drew on
Sasanian works and was faithful to his authorities.1 The
result is a poem which appeals to Persians as nothing else
does in their language/, which makes them glow with
pride at the valour of their forbears and unites them
in their intense pride of'TadeL Listening to its lines
declaimed by some fiery tribesman who can neither read
nor write, I have realized that on such occasions the
Persian lays bare his very soul.
Browne frankly confesses that he cannot appreciate
the Shahnama, but the late Professor Cowell wrote the
following noble eulogy : <c Augustus said that he found
Rome of brick, and left it marble ; and Firdausi found
his country almost without a literature, and has left her
a poem that all succeeding poets could only imitate and
never surpass, and which, indeed, can rival them all even
in their peculiar styles, and perhaps stands as alone in
Asia as Homer's epics in Europe. . . . His versification
is exquisitely melodious, and never interrupted by harsh
forms of construction ; and the poem runs on from be-
ginning to end, like a river, in an unbroken current of
harmony. Verse after verse ripples on the ear and washes
up its tribute of rhyme ; and we stand, as it were, on the
i Vide Chapter XLI. p. 506.